Opera Reviews
28 October 2020
Untitled Document

Jane Archibald and Javier Camarena hit the heights in this revival of La fille du régiment

by Moore Parker
Donizetti: La fille du régiment
Vienna State Opera
20 September 2020
Jane Archibald (Marie), Chorus

A co-production with The Royal Opera, Covent Garden and New York’s Met, Laurent Pelly’s popular La fille du régiment returned to Vienna on this evening with a new line-up in the romantic leads.

Javier Camarena’s Tonio debut was originally scheduled in 2018 - but was unexpectedly usurped by a recording engagement. Jane Archibald, who builds upon familiar successes both in this house as well as in Theater an der Wien, was to become his first Marie in this showing. 

Now in his mid-40’s, Camarena is arguably at his peak with a ripened tone in pristine condition, yet with winning youthful esprit to convince in the part.  He here played up the country yokel in his opening scene (while whitening his vocal colour to some degree) before progressing to the ranks and his showcase aria.

Oddly, "Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête" seemed a touch unsettled with one of the eight top C’s joined momentarily by a little frog - but, a minor issue as such. Camarena’s tone is unusually broad for this Fach - yet rises effortlessly to a powerful gleaming top which many a spinto tenor might envy. "Pour me rapprocher de Marie" was touching in presentation and included an exceptional high C# which contributed to a thunderous reception - despite the limited Covid-restricted house. 

Canadian soprano Jane Archibald returned - now as a guest rather than ensemble member - for her first Vienna Fille. She throws herself into the part with formidable energy, doing well as the T-shirted tomboyish Girl Friday at camp as much as playing the awkward ward imprisoned in her white gown and petticoat. Meticulously worked, her Marie displays conscientious attention to the score’s demands while excelling in a fine sense of phrasing and dynamics within her range. 
"Il faut partir" was captivating in it’s lyricism and emotional expression - whetting one’s appetite for her forthcoming Zdenka (Arabella) here in November.

Carlos Álvarez’ Sulpice dates from the Vienna premiere in 2007 and, as ever, he sailed through the evening with inimitable panache 
and compelling vocal presence. Well synergised with Donna Ellen’s Marquise von Berkenfield of the past two revivals, the pair resist any temptation to parodise while enjoying the all-so-vital dialogue to its heights. Marcus Pelz’ delightfully dry Hortensius well-augmented the couple.

The Duchess of Crakentorp’s scene is a vehicle for a personality of legendary status or quirky interest. Caballé was the first in Vienna, Te Kanawa came later, and London saw the enormously popular comedienne Dawn French in this production. My very first happened to be Ljuba Welitsch in the New York version which included Sutherland and Pavarotti in the star-studded cast. Burgtheater actress Maria Happel seemed unfortunately ill at ease in this niche, requiring a double-entrance to rouse her expected ovation, and with an awkward (amplified) rendition of Piaf’s "Milord" leading to stiffly incomprehensible dialogue. The real tidbit was to hear the incomparable Vienna Opera Orchestra playing the music of Marguerite Monnot!

Evelino Pidò conducted a superb overture to set the mood, and generally maintained form, with only a couple of minor hiccups in Act 2. Both the State Opera Chorus and Orchestra were in fine fettle and unflinchingly energized throughout in this production’s 28th showing in the house.

Text © Moore Parker
Photo © Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Pöhn
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